ST. PETERSBURG, FL– In 1953, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in hopes of improving attendance and increasing their bottom line.
A very young boy was heartbroken. His dad had worked for owner Lou Perini, and had introduced his son to Major League Baseball. On occasion, he would take him to work, bring him down to a seat adjacent to the Braves dugout, and request his friend, Sibby Sisti, a utility player, ‘to keep an eye on him.’ Back then, this was not a problem unlike now, he would be charged with child neglect.
Now, the Braves were home, and his dad, because of his full-time job, could not relocate his family to Milwaukee. The following year, 1954, a young outfielder made his debut with the Braves. His name… Henry Aaron, who became his son’s favorite baseball player (smart choice by the kid). So much of a favorite, as a Little Leaguer, he began to emulate Aaron when he went to the plate. Standing in the batter’s box, he would ‘wave’ his bat while waiting for the pitch.
Unfortunately, his son was having a terrible time trying to hit the ball. The father asked, “What are you at the plate by waving your bat?” The boy replied, “Hank Aaron does that.” “Son you’re no Hank Aaron,” the father said.
In 1957, the Braves had their best year, winning the National League pennant and thanks to a fantastic performance by pitcher Lew Burdette, who won three games, beat the New York Yankees and won the World Series.
In 1966, the Braves opened the season in a new home, Fulton County Stadium, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Only two players from the 1954 team remained, both future Hall of Famers, Ed Matthews and Henry Aaron.
Through the years, the boy followed the Braves, buying the Sporting News to see their box scores, looking for articles in the local newspaper and in the 70’s began making road trips to New York and Montreal to see the Braves take on the Mets and Expos.
Though it was a long time between World Series championship seasons, the boy, now a middle aged man, remained a fan (in 1995 Braves won the World Series).
In 1997, the Braves ‘came home’, visiting the Boston Red Sox to play one of the interleague games. In future years, now married with children, he would take the entire family and friends dressed in Braves garb to the games.
To this day, the boy from Boston remains a diehard fan and the reason for writing this story?
On a warm, March day, in St. Petersburg, Florida, at Tropicana Field, the Braves played a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays. On the field that day, talking with manager Brian Snitker, coach Ron Washington, and exchanging, ‘how do you do’s?’ with the players, whose team left him in 1952.
Thanks Dad, for introducing me to Major League Baseball and the Braves.
The “full circle” has been completed.
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